The Rajasthan Royals (RR) looked to have done most things right for a change. A dramatic rejig in their batting order along with a confident bowling display had put them ahead in the game. With two overs to go, however, they made an important decision that turned out costly - and just like that, RR lost a game they should have won against the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB).
After opting to bat first, RR sent Jos Buttler down the order for the first time in recent memory. Robin Uthappa got the impetus he probably needed to get his season going, and smashed 41 off 22 in the powerplay as fellow opener Ben Stokes struggled.
While Samson and Buttler didn't quite set the stage on fire, RR skipper Smith breathed life into his IPL season with a quickfire 57, which fan favourite Rahul Tewatia followed up with a 11-ball 19.
RCB's start was a stuttering one, with Finch dismissed early and Padikkal struggling for timing. Captain Virat Kohli found the occasional boundary, but the duo were dismissed off consecutive balls in the match, leading to worry lines on the foreheads of RCB fans and dugout members.
It just so happened that one of the best players in IPL history bats at 4 (at least in this game) for RCB. Keeping up his scintillating form, De Villiers battered the RR death bowling, taking a particular liking to Jaydev Unadkat.
RR's major investment over the past three years has only bled runs apart from occasional successes, and the decision to bowl him in the 19th over cost RR the match, with 10 off 6 not enough for Archer to defend against a rampaging De Villiers.
There were a few disappointing performances in a game that has pushed RR closer to the abyss. Here's a look at the top three.
#3 Ben Stokes (RR)
Right from his long-awaited return to the team, Stokes has interestingly been played at the top of the order. Except for one match where he played a useful hand, RR have needed more from the Englishman.
In this particular game, Stokes looked stuck as despite hitting two fours, he managed just 15 off 19 and was left watching his opening partner score all the runs against the RCB powerplay bowlers. He was dismissed gloving a simple catch to the keeper, and had no part to play with the ball.
Quicker runs from Stokes' blade may have helped RR scored enough to put the target out of RCB's reach.
#2 Isuru Udana (RCB)
The first ball bowled by Udana took a thick outside edge and flew over the slip cordon to give four runs to Uthappa. That would be the closest that Udana looked to be threatening for RCB, as the RR opener cashed in on the powerplay with his first over as a springboard.
Udana conceded 17 off his first over, following that up with two overs of 11 and 15 runs. The over of 11 runs came after RCB had tied RR down in the previous three overs. It looked like Kohli was attempting to get through Udana's overs while the batsmen weren't looking to be attacking, but it backfired and the Sri Lankan was not called upon for a fourth over.
#1 Jaydev Unadkat (RR)
RR could hardly have asked for a better platform to claw their way back into the IPL playoffs race. A few hits from De Villiers took the game closer than it normally would have, but 35 off 12 was still something a smart captain with two experienced fast bowlers - Unadkat and Jofra Archer - can back his team to defend.
In a move that was lambasted by the commentators on air immediately, and will surely be the subject of much attention, Smith kept Archer for the final over, trusting Unadkat for the 19th. Sure, Archer had conceded more, but really?
Unadkat threw the match away as De Villiers went 6, 6, 6 off his first three balls, and RCB took 25 off the over. It ended a promising performance by RR and their up-and-down caravan continues to hit roadblocks.
Check the IPL points table here.
Published 17 Oct 2020, 22:56 IST